Monday 15 April 2024

#Blogtour Honour Among Spies by Merle Nygate

It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour Honour Among Spies by Merle Nygate.

About the Author

Merle Nygate is a screenwriter, script editor, screenwriting lecturer and novelist; she's worked on BAFTA winning TV, New York Festival audio drama and written original sitcoms; previously she worked for BBC Comedy Commissioning as well as writing and script editing across multiple genres. Most recently, Merle completed her first espionage novel which won the Little Brown/UEA Crime Fiction Award. It was described by the judge as 'outstanding'. Follow @MerleNygate on X

About the book

Eli Amiram – Mossad's star spy runner – returns in this fast-moving and international spy thriller which sees two complex plots collide with a potentially apocalyptic outcome.

At the heart of London's spy operations, Mossad head of station Eli carries the scars of a past disaster while grappling with the turbulent political landscape back home. His resolve to uphold his duty and keep his job is tested like never before.

Desperate to tip the scales in the espionage game, Eli concocts a risky plan involving tampered drones destined for Russian hands. But to execute this plan, he has to exploit those closest to him. Eli's moral compass clashes with the mission, leading him down a treacherous path of betrayal.

As the stakes escalate, Eli finds himself embroiled in a deadly web, racing to foil an apocalyptic agenda. With the clock ticking, alliances are tested, sacrifices are made, and Eli must confront the consequence of his actions head-on.

Eli and his team must navigate a shadowy underworld to prevent a terrorist plot from unleashing chaos on a global scale. Will they emerge victorious, or will the darkness consume them all?

A must-read for fans of Homeland and NCIS, it will also appeal to readers of Charles Cumming and John le Carré.

Review

I enjoyed the way the two plots or threads came together, and also that one of them has a very distinct question of loyalty and truth attached to it. Ironically not necessarily the one you might expect. The story, which is a non-stop fast-paced story about the murky world of spydom. Not the raincoat meet on a foggy bridge and exchange prisoners kind of cold war world of spies, but the new cold war - an underbelly of politics and profit that really does not have much time for honour.

Although I am sure perpetrators would shout their grievance at that perception, they are of course in their own eyes driven by a code of honour, regardless of whether the core is religion, misogyny, racism or political affiliation. Can there be a honour or code as such between the people tasked with fighting this underbelly of threats, can it exist in this new version of cold war? The keeping countries, who are on the possible brink of starting the unforgiveable from breaking fragile peace - or what is called peace nowadays.

I have to admit I was fascinated by the title, perhaps more so because my brain automatically allocated a No to the title, which then made me wonder why I had that inner instinct. In this often brutally honest story, which is carried by the tactical ruthless characters, there is a glimpse of the humane and compassionate side of them they have to pack into a wee locked box, because the truth has to stay hidden at all times.

This brings me to the ethical compass Eli, and others, have to balance when it comes to their personal relationships. Can you ever live in a relationship of any kind when everything is based on lies and more lies? If you lie about who you are and what you do 24/7, then how can anything you say or do ever be trusted?

Of course that doesn't make Eli any less of a great asset in the world of espionage, but perhaps that world will always take centre stage, whilst everything and everyone else falls to the wayside.

It's a story that never stops moving, gaining impetus as grey areas become more frequent in this riveting spy thriller - in a story where good, bad, right or wrong are merely words and no longer have any meaning.

Buy Honour Among Spies at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : ‎No Exit Press; pub date 11 April 2024. Buy at Amazon com.

Friday 12 April 2024

#Blogtour Lords of Uncreation by Adrian Tchaikovsky

It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour Lords of Uncreation by Adrian Tchaikovsky. From Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of Children of Time and winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Lords of Uncreation is the final high-octane instalment in The Final Architecture space opera trilogy.

About the Author

Adrian Tchaikovsky lives in Leeds, with his wife and son. Adrian is a keen live role-player and occasional amateur actor. He has also trained in stage-fighting and keeps no exotic or dangerous pets of any kind - possibly excepting his son.

Adrian is the author of the critically acclaimed Shadows of the Apt series, the Echoes of the Fall series and other novels, novellas and short-stories. the Tiger and the Wolf won the British Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy Novel and Children of Time won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction. Follow @aptshadow on X

About the book

He's found a way to end their war, but will humanity survive to see it?

Idris Telemmier has uncovered a secret that changes everything - the Architects' greatest weakness. A shadowy Cartel scrambles to turn his discovery into a weapon against these alien destroyers of worlds. But be. But between them and victory stands self-interest. The galaxy's great powers would rather pursue their own agendas than stand together against this shared terror.

Human and inhuman interests wrestle to control Idris's discovery, a= as the galaxy erupts into a mutually destructive and self-defeating war. The other great obstacle to striking against their alien threat is Idris himself. He knows that the Architects, despite their power, are merely tools of a higher intelligence.

Deep within unspace, where time moves differently, and reality isn't quite what it seems, their masters are the true threat. Masters who are just becoming aware of humanity's daring - and taking steps to exterminate this annoyance forever.

Review

Coming into this third book in the series I felt as if the worldbuilding was so intricate that the previous books were a must, however 'the story so far' part of the book also gives a non-previous reader a decent structure to engage with the story on a level that allows them to step straight into the story.

It did feel as if at times the character development suffered a wee bit under the weight of the multitude of both human, alien and the in-between species come existential components with strong survival and often almost innate push to control and conquer. This third book also begins with an almost imperceptible nudge nudge wink to the readers 'can I bring it all together or not' and then it's up to the reader to decide whether the author does.

Make no mistake though you have to bring your braincell a-game to the table or this complex sci-fi space opera might just eat you up and spit you back out. I wonder if the author has that at the back of their mind whilst writing - layer upon layer of structured worldbuilding, let's see who makes it to the final round of the Architecture. It will either consume you or you will inevitably learn to comprehend and battle.

Buy Lords of Uncreation at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Tor; pub date 11 April 2024 - PB £9.99. Buy at Amazon com.

Thursday 11 April 2024

#Blogtour The Grand Illusion by Syd Moore

It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour The Grand Illusion by Syd Moore, who is back with a thrilling new series set in WW2.

About the Author

Syd Moore is currently Essex Libraries’ first Author in Residence. Twice shortlisted for a CWA Dagger, she is best known for her Essex Witch Museum Mysteries, a series that explores the witch trials in Essex between 1560 to 1680.  The series was shortlisted for the Good Reader Holmes and Watson Award in 2018 and 2019.  Syd founded the Essex Girls' Liberation Front and successfully got the term ‘Essex Girl’ removed from the Oxford dictionary in 2020. Her debut screenplay, Witch West will go into production in 2024.  She lives in Essex. Follow @SydMoore1 on X

About the book

JUNE 1940.  As Hitler prepares to invade Britain, a secret office hidden away in Whitehall is catapulted into a frenzy of activity and expansion.  Aware of the Nazis’ obsession with the occult, the British Secret Service sets out to exploit this potential weakness in the enemy’s high command.

Twenty-two-year-old Daphne Devine is performing on the London stage as assistant to magician Jonty Trevelyan, aka ‘The Grand Mystique’, when the secret service calls.

Daphne and Jonty find themselves far from the glitz and glamour of the theatre, deep inside the lower levels of Wormwood Scrubs prison.  Here they join secret ranks of astrologers, illusionists and other theatre performers co-opted to the war effort.

Soon Daphne realizes she must risk everything if there is any chance of saving her country…

In the opener to a new historical fiction series Syd Moore brings her unique perspective to a different period - the Second World War. The Grand Illusion is inspired by an event alleged to have taken place in the New Forest in the summer of 1940 - a spectacular magical ritual -  “The Cone of Power” - that would be witnessed by German agents in the area and reported back to the Führer.  Its goal: to avert invasion on British shores.


Review

Can you even imagine being recruited to help save your country, to be part of the greater and wider war efforts to deter the enemy. Oh, and your talents are being a magician and his glamourous assistant. Yeh, either the math ain't mathing or this is going in a very interesting direction. How are you supposed to save everyone? Perhaps with the bunny in a hat trick?

I have always been intrigued by the strategic decision making during WW2 by Germany or Hitler and his leadership team. Just leaving aside the horrific obsession the man had with eugenics and his planned genocide of the Jewish population and just looking at his strategy to occupy one country after the other. From a strategic point of view the choice to focus on Russia and come back to Britain at a later date is what cost him the war. He overestimated his resources and their ability to stretch, supply across such a vast area, and underestimated the country.

By taking the what can only be described as one of many unusual approaches to saving Britain from an invasion or becoming one of the many occupied countries during the Nazi regime, the combination of fact and fiction come together to create this remarkable and interesting story. I kind of love the thought that this could have a smidgen of truth at the core. I've read other books that mention a certain obsession with the occult and asking for direction, which would have made a specific person susceptible to being led in decision making.

It has the old-school charm of Foyle's War with the chaotic element of wartime Jonathan Creek with Daphne as the driving force of the story. She is the glue that keeps Jonty upright, on task and from self-destructing. I can't wait to see where this series goes next.

Buy The Grand Illusion at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Published by Magpie, an imprint of Oneworld, pub date 18 April 2024 - Hardback £16.99. Buy at Amazon com.

Tuesday 9 April 2024

#Blogtour The Romanov Brides by Clare McHugh

It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour The Romanov Brides - A Novel of the Last Tsarina and Her Sisters by Clare McHugh.

About the Author

Clare McHugh is the author of A Most English Princess, a historical novel about the family of Queen Victoria, and The Romanov Brides. A former newspaper reporter and magazine editor, McHugh graduated from Harvard College with a degree in European history. She currently lives in London and in Amagansett, NY. Follow @Claremch on X

About the book

From the author of A Most English Princess comes a rich novel about young Princess Alix of Hesse—the future Alexandra, last Empress of Imperial Russia—and her sister, Princess Ella. Their decision to marry into the Romanov royal family changed history. They were granddaughters of Queen Victoria and two of the most beautiful princesses in Europe.

Princesses Alix and Ella were destined to wed well and wisely. But while their grandmother wants to join them to the English and German royal families, the sisters fall in love with Russia—and the Romanovs.

Defying the Queen’s dire warnings, Ella weds the tsar’s brother, Grand Duke Serge. Cultivated, aloof, and proud, Serge places his young wife on a pedestal for all to admire. Behind palace gates, Ella struggles to secure private happiness.

Alix, whisked away to Russia for Ella’s wedding, meets and captivates Nicky—heir apparent to the Russian throne. While loving him deeply, Alix hears a call of conscience, urging her to walk away. Their fateful decisions to marry will lead to tragic consequences for not only themselves and their families, but for millions in Russia and around the globe.

The Romanov Brides is a moving and fascinating portrait of two bold and spirited royal sisters, and brings to vivid life imperial Russia—a dazzling, decadent world on the brink of disappearing forever.

Review

This is the story of how Princess Alix and Princess Ella shape not only a shift in political landscape of Imperial Russia, but also become tragic symbols of said change. One could argue that sometimes the last drop in the overflowing barrel is the perhaps not the most significant drop, but certainly the trigger that tips the scales.

I wonder how many of the decisions Alix made in relation to her son and his healthcare, which ultimately contributed to putting herself and her family in a dangerous position, were driven by her experiences as a child. The trauma of losing a parent and a close sibling must have left scars and perhaps the haemophilia in her young son triggered a response that was not very rational.

I admit it's hard not to think of the fates Alix, Ella and their family members meet whilst reading about the paths they wandered to get to that point. Ultimately the connection both sisters create with the people and country of their choosing, costs them their lives. The inability to read the room/country and perhaps learn from history.

Kudos to the author for including genealogy and family origins, it creates a better understanding of the bigger picture. The way the monarchies are interlinked, related and the power base was spread across many countries. It's a good read, perhaps more so because the moments the sisters are most known for - their deaths - become secondary to the lives they led before.

Buy The Romanov Brides at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎William Morrow Paperbacks pub date 28 Mar. 2024. Buy at Amazon com.

Monday 8 April 2024

#Blogtour Sanctuary of the Shadow by Aurora Ascher

It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour Sanctuary of the Shadow by Aurora Ascher, this is book 1 in the Elemental Emergence series.

About the Author

Paranormal & fantasy romance author Aurora Ascher loves misunderstood mythical monsters, redeemable anti-heroes, and epic happily-ever-afters.

A woman of many creative pursuits, Aurora is also a professional musician and visual artist. She currently resides in Montreal with her trusty espresso machine and her endlessly patient husband, whom she sometimes doesn't see for hours until she emerges from her writing cave like a bear in springtime.

About the book

Enter the circus at your own risk… and discover the greatest show on earth in this explosive and darkly magical fantasy novel.

For humans, the circus is a place filled with wonder and amazement. For Harrow, it's a place to hide from those who slaughtered her entire clan. Disguising her abilities as part of her act has kept her true identity safe for years. Until he arrives.

A strange new attraction with no name, no memory of who – or even what – he is, let alone an explanation for his odd yet deadly powers. But beneath the layers of anger and isolation, one glimpse into his inky eyes reveals a soul that calls out to the loneliness in her own. And so, she chooses him.

Harrow is drawn to the darkness, to her insatiable need to soothe the beast who threatens their very existence. But with every secret she unlocks from his past, another from hers is revealed – luring enemies who will stop at nothing to get their final revenge on Harrow. And she's afraid she's given them the perfect weapon against her because he's not what he seems.

But maybe it's time they finally learn neither is she…


Review

I loved the idea of oddities and on-show being a feared, forbidden and yet similar entity to the human element. You fear the difference, love the sameness, The divide creates an insurmountable wall between the two fractions. The negativity they receive both cements the feeling of being other and widens the divide.

It's a fascinating work of fantasy with main characters often walking both sides of the light and darkness. That is especially evident in the beginning when Harrow senses impending doom, when Salizar appears to be both a strong leader and a man who caters for the thirsty public, and of course Raith who may or may not be darkness personified.

Looking forward to seeing where this one goes. The intricate world-building is built upon a bed of ruthless rivalry and war, which has split into rivets of separation and mistrust. Somewhere behind the ever shifting construction of the circus is a spark of hope, and danger.

I hope that this constant moving variable of past and present remains a part of the story. The way it impacts the characters, their interactions and their stories.

Buy Sanctuary of the Shadow at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publication: pub date28th March 2024 | Hardback | Bantam | £18.99 retailer. Buy at Amazon com.

Thursday 4 April 2024

#Blogtour The Nowhere Girls by Dana Perry

It's a pleasure to take part in the Bookouture Books on Tour Blogtour for The Nowhere Girls by Dana Perry - also featuring the next two books in the Detective Nikki Cassidy series, The Last One to Die and The Lost Ones.

About the Author

I am a New York City author who writes mystery thrillers under the pen name of Dana Perry - and also as R.G. Belsky. My new thriller for Bookouture is The Nowhere Girls, the first in a series featuring Detective Nikki Cassidy. Book 2, Last One to Die and Book 3, The Lost Ones, will also be published on April 2nd. 

Contact me at DanaPerryAuthor@yahoo.com, via @DanaPerryAuthor on X or @danaperryauthor on Facebook. Sign up to be the first to hear about new releases from Dana Perry here: https://www.bookouture.com/dana-perry

About - The Nowhere Girls

My kid sister was murdered fifteen years ago. Now the killer has struck again. And this time, I’m going to take my revenge…

On the anniversary of her sister’s death, FBI agent Nikki Cassidy takes a call that has her heart pounding in her chest, the image of her beautiful sister Caitlin etched in her mind.

Another girl has been taken. The killer is back. - Nikki rushes to her small hometown of Groveton, Ohio. She will do anything to stop another young girl dying, but she soon realises that nothing is what it seems—everyone in her hometown is keeping a secret. And when a note is discovered near Natalie’s body addressed to Nikki, it’s clear what the murderer really wants: her…

She’s caught killers before, but this time it’s personal. And Nikki will risk everything—even her own life—to get justice for every victim. It’s time to stop this twisted killer, once and for all…

Review

One could argue that Nikki is driven by a deep-seated feeling of guilt, the need to stop abusers and predators is secondary, and the job she does comes a lonely third. It may seem as if Detective Nikki Cassidy has all her eggs in a basket, a successful career and loving relationship with her husband-to-be, but the truth is her past is only ever one second away from her daily life.

One of the things that ties her so tightly to the tragedy of Caitlin's disappearance and murder, is her repeated attempts to get the murderer to explain it all to her. Why Caitlin, how did he take her, and most importantly the details of each second before he killed her baby sister. Every year on the anniversary Nikki contacts the tight-lipped prisoner, and every year there is nothing but silence.

This time it's different, not only is he willing to talk to Nikki, the past seems to be repeating itself. Another young girl has gone missing and a vital clue connected to the previous murder proves that someone outside the prison walls knows exactly what happened to Caitlin.

It's a fast-paced crime thriller with a main character who is at best slightly unstable, because her core emotions that are reined in tightly, are slowly seeping through into her day-today life. It puts her in a position that is precarious - you often don't see the risk or the betrayal when you aren't paying attention. Let's hope the truth doesn't chip away at that wall she has built around her, chip away until only fragility is left.

Buy The Nowhere Girls at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎ Bookouture; pub date 2 April 2024. Buy at Amazon com.

About - Last One to Die

Ten days ago, straight-A student Jessica Stanley ran away from home. Now her lifeless body lies pale and still in an empty parking lot, her unblinking brown eyes staring up to the night sky…

FBI agent Nikki Cassidy’s heart pounds as she takes in the short, dark hair and delicate features of fourteen-year-old schoolgirl Jessica Stanley. It’s another unsolved murder in Groveton, Ohio, just like her sister, Caitlin, fifteen years before. Her family beg her to keep her distance, but Nikki knows she can’t walk away. - What if her sister’s killer is back?

Talking to Jessica’s heartbroken family, Nikki learns that she wasn’t happy at home. Just days ago, she packed a few belongings into her school backpack and left, never to be seen alive again.

Determined to give Jessica’s family the answers she never found for herself, Nikki works around the clock, trawling hours of CCTV footage from the scene. And just when she thinks she’s close to uncovering the truth, a chilling email arrives that confirms her deepest fear. There are more victims, Nikki. Can you ever stop me?

This killer is playing a dangerous game, and he has Nikki in his sights now—one wrong move and she could be his next victim. She’s determined to unmask the monster who has tortured her hometown for decades. But what if the killer is someone close to her? What if it’s someone she loves?

Review

The main character can be a bit of a mixed bag, perhaps it's the pesky guilty feelings that make her so unlikeable at times. In this sense the character development is on point. Nikki struggles with the way others perceive her part in Caitlin's death, and indeed keeping the emotional turmoil under wraps can be a bit of a task. It probably explains her lack of impulse control when it comes to thoughts and actions sometimes.

Without giving too much away I think tracking patterns of access, vulnerability and groupings of potential victims, is quite important in this book. Perpetrators often look for specific similarities that make a possible victim more susceptible to falling prey to a predator. The patterns that make non-predators want to help, protect and safeguard. Too many victims fall through the cracks.

On a side-note - I just don't get her fascination with Weller. The man was such a red flag, slightly too obsessed with what should have been. I understand the guilt, but perhaps her being in the middle of another tragedy is another way of validating her own negative self-image. Nikki seems to be attracted to men who aren't always fully available - safety valve or self-preservation?

In this second book of the Nikki Cassidy series the past is still the main motivator, and I think there were too many similarities to certain key elements of the first book. Unless there is a plot purpose it just looks a bit repetitive.

Let's hope Nikki can move beyond the depths of betrayal and the depravity of predators, and even find the perfect partner going forward.

Buy Last One to Die at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Bookouture; pub date 2 April 2024. Buy at Amazon com.

About - The Lost Ones

As dawn breaks over a small gas station on the outskirts of Groveton, Ohio, the body of a teenage girl lies totally still. Long blonde hair covers her face, and a length of frayed rope hangs loosely around her neck. It’s only a matter of time before someone finds her, just like her killer intended…

When FBI agent Nikki Cassidy receives a call from Groveton’s Chief of Police, her heart pounds. A young girl just knocked on the door of Nikki’s old family home, claiming to be Nikki’s kid sister, Caitlin. But Caitlin was murdered fifteen years ago. Who is the girl and what does she want?

Nikki thinks the impersonator could finally lead her to her sister’s twisted killer. But her hope is shattered when the girl’s lifeless body is found strangled at a local service stop. If the girl knew about Caitlin, could she have known the identity of the killer? Was she murdered before she could unmask them?

Going against her boss’s orders to stay away, Nikki traces the girl’s last known steps to her best friend, Shirley. Nikki learns that the girl was last seen meeting with a stranger at the mall. Could it have been her killer?

Closer than ever to uncovering the truth, Nikki can’t give up now. But when Shirley’s body is found at another service station, a length of rope wound around her neck, her heart shatters. Another young life has been lost. Nikki vows that this will be the last.

When an intruder breaks into her old home, Nikki knows it’s the killer sending her a sign. As she walks into the familiar old house in the dead of night, will she finally get justice and catch her sister’s killer, or did she just walk into a deadly trap?

If you enjoy Lisa Regan, Robert Dugoni and Kendra Elliot, you will absolutely love these gripping and totally unputdownable crime thrillers.

Review

What fresh hell has Nikki stumbled into this time? Not only is there another killer on the loose, the past is back again, perhaps in the most egregious way yet. As yet another young girl is found murdered the death of Caitlin wanders back into the spotlight.

Caitlin is back or is it someone pretending to be Caitlin, and if so, why? Why bring a new onslaught of pain and guilt by pretending to be a murder victim - the dead risen from their damp bed of earth. Nikki sees this as a way to find the guilty party. Someone somewhere must be pulling the strings, must be pushing this hurtful and manipulative narrative. Someone who thinks everyone is expendable.

This third book in the Nikki Cassidy series gives a much better indication of why the disappearance and murder of her little sister is the main event in all three books, and clearly after the cliffhanger in this one there is more to come. Kind of makes you question everything.

Where is the author going with it though, what kind of path does he want the reader to embark upon? Equally what happens when the foundation of Nikki's character and career begins to crumble? As we wander through the series it becomes more intertwined with what appears to be a more nefarious agenda.

Buy The Lost Ones on Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Bookouture pub date 2 April 2024. Buy at Amazon com.

Buy The Nowhere Girls - Buy Last One to Die - Buy The Lost Ones

Tuesday 2 April 2024

#Review The Warm Hands of Ghosts by Katherine Arden

Absolutely fantastic new novel by Katherine Arden. The Warm Hands of Ghosts is a #MustRead for 2024!

About the Author

Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden has always had a taste for wandering. She spent her junior year of high school in Rennes, France.

Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrolment for a year in order to live and study in Russia. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature, and her studies included sojourns at the Sorbonne in Paris and the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow.

After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii and worked every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and guiding horse tours to serving as a personal tour guide. During this time she wrote what became her debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale. After a year on the island, she moved to Briançon, France, and spent nine months teaching. She then returned to Maui, where she began writing The Girl in the Tower, the sequel to her debut, and officially launched her career as an author. Currently she lives in Vermont.

She is the author of the Winternight Trilogy for adults and the Small Spaces Quartet for children. The Warm Hands of Ghosts is her eighth novel. 

Follow @arden_katherine on X, Visit katherineardenbooks.com

About the book

World War One, and as shells fall in Flanders, a Canadian nurse searches for her brother believed dead in the trenches despite eerie signs that suggest otherwise in this gripping and powerful historical novel from the bestselling author of The Bear and the Nightingale.

January 1918. Laura Iven has been discharged from her duties as a nurse and sent back to Halifax, Canada, leaving behind a brother still fighting in the trenches of the First World War. Now home, she receives word of Freddie's death in action along with his uniform -but something doesn't quite make sense. Determined to find out more, Laura returns to Belgium as a volunteer at a private hospital. Soon after arriving, she hears whispers about ghosts moving among those still living and a strange inn-keeper whose wine gives soldiers the gift of oblivion. Could this have happened to Freddie - but if so, where is he?

November 1917. Freddie Iven awakens after an explosion to find himself trapped under an overturned pillbox with an enemy soldier, a German, each of them badly wounded. Against all odds, the two men form a bond and succeed in clawing their way out. But once in No Man's Land, where can either of them turn where they won't be shot as enemy soldiers or deserters? As the killing continues, they meet a man - a fiddler - who seems to have the power to make the hellscape that surrounds them disappear. But at what price?

A novel of breath-taking scope and drama, of compulsive readability, of stunning historical research lightly worn, and of brilliantly drawn characters who will make you laugh and break your heart in a single line, The Warm Hands of Ghosts is a book that will speak to readers directly about the trauma of war and the power of those involved to love, endure and transcend it.

Review

This book is definitely going on my best of the year list. Arden is an author I would always recommend, her Winternight trilogy solidified what an amazing writer and talented storyteller she is. I was only thinking a few months ago that I hadn't seen a new book and hey presto this popped up.

I have been telling everyone about this book, it's absolutely remarkable. It has the trademark wandering into the elements of life that cross the lines of preconceived norms and delve into things that lurk in the shadows. Simultaneously it also has such an accurate connection to not only that period in history, but also the emotional and physical wounds caused by the destruction and devastation of the Great War.

Capturing the conflict from a variety of views and people gives a better perspective of the tragedy, the losses and the terrible impact. The allies, the enemy, the medical staff, the volunteers, the civilians, the lost souls and the ghosts. In the end everyone is the same. This is especially evident in the relationship between Freddie and Winter. When push comes to shove, and survival or death are the only choices, is there really any room for two sides? 

The scenes with Winter and Freddie, especially when they first meet, they are extraordinary. The reader feels the darkness, the damp, the mud and the fear. Fear is the same regardless of which country you are fighting for.

Laura is on a quest to find her brother, despite the odds of him being dead being very high. Her own trauma makes her vulnerable to Faland, as indeed are many on the fields of battle. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book - it becomes a metaphor, a way to survive, a mindset and a conjured mass hallucination shared by destroyed and frightened souls. Or is it?

I loved this story, wouldn't hesitate to recommend it and think it is indicative of the power of word, storytelling and suggestion. It is a haunting experience - it is a haunting.

Buy The Warm Hands of Ghosts at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Century, pub date 7 Mar. 2024. Buy at Amazon com. At Bookshop org.

Friday 29 March 2024

#Blogtour Atom Inc by O.C. Heaton

It's been a whirlwind of tours featuring LEAP, Green Ray of The Race is On trilogy. Today it's book three - Atom Inc by O.C. Heaton.

About the Author

'I write what I love to read - big issue thrillers that are super well researched inside a complex plot full of twists and turns.

The result of the above is The Race Is On Series, an idea I had on a trip to Iceland. The first in the series is called LEAP, which tells the tale of a device which has the power to halt global warming. The ensuing race to control the power of this machine will continue throughout the sequel to LEAP which I’m well on my way to completing. It's called Green Ray and will be published in May 2023.

Just like LEAP, the 2nd book weaves fact with fiction and encompasses events such as the 2009 global financial meltdown, Al Qaeda, a new US President and a cornered CIA; another delightful concoction around which I have constructed another tall, but hopefully credible, tale. Watch this space!'

I live in Leeds, UK with the love of my life and our two daughters. It rains a lot in Leeds but that works out well for me - loads of time for research and of course writing! Follow @OCHeaton on X, @ocheaton on Instagram, Visit Website : ocheaton.com

About the book

No one is above the Laws...

Seven years after its conception, LEAP is finally about to spell the end of global warming. For Uma and Ethan, this means personal and professional triumph – but quantum teleportation is an unwieldy beast, held back by those fighting to dominate the new world order.

As LEAP's roll out slows to a trickle, a greater threat emerges when a stealth attack on US troops leaves thousands dead. With the finger of suspicion pointing to a LEAP copycat, Ethan and Uma are forced to condone a breach of the Laws to reverse the massacre.

As LEAP’s new rival continues to show their hand, Ethan is dragged back into a nightmare he thought he had escaped. One that may finally claim his sanity, and that pushes Uma to the limits of hers, to defeat an evil that no longer plays by the rules.


Review

Is it just me or are the ethics getting more murky the further we get into the series, which of course is exactly what happens when an invention, a weapon or advancement opens up a world of opportunities. Somewhere along the path the excitement burns into greed, into hunger to explore elements that have been closed to mankind. The question is where does it stop, and indeed has Uma lost sight of what the research was born from and intended for?

As most inventions there will always be someone ready to use the blueprint and make a power play - with cold hard cash at the heart of it. What happens when you lose control completely, when LEAP becomes the outdated version and potential copies do real harm?

There is a little bit of a twist that might shake up how Uma moves forward, and it will certainly make for an interesting controversy if she does what I think she will do. Is there a personal line she will never cross or does the need to take one step further into research and the unknown always override every ethical barrier in the end?

I note there is also a prequel novella in the series, which captures the beginning of LEAP and the man who brought us the core concept in the first place. I wonder whether the above applies to Jakob also, despite the best intentions. Science, technology and advancement eh - not always the gift it appears to be. Why, well because humans will always be the unknown and unpredictable variable you can never quite calculate with complete accuracy.

Looking forward to reading more!

Buy Atom Inc at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Rookwood Publishing, pub date 29 Feb. 2024. Buy at Amazon com.

Thursday 28 March 2024

#Blogtour Meet Me When My Heart Stops by Becky Hunter

It's an absolute pleasure to take part in the Blogtour Meet Me When My Heart Stops by Becky Hunter.

About the Author

Becky Hunter lived and worked in London for several years before moving to Mozambique to volunteer with horses and try her hand at writing. A few years, a few destinations, and a few jobs later she had the idea that would become One Moment. Alongside writing, she now works as a freelance editor and publicist, splitting her time between Bristol and London, and constantly trying to plan the next adventure. Follow @Bookish_Becky on X

About the book

What if your soulmate could only ever be the love of your afterlife? 

The first time Emery dies, she is only five years old...  Emery is born with a heart condition that means her heart could quite literally stop at any moment. The people around her know what to do - if they act quickly enough there will be no lasting damage, and Emery's heart can be restarted. But when this happens, she is briefly technically dead. 

Each time Emery's heart stops, she meets Nick. His purpose is to help people adjust to the fact that they are dead, to help them say goodbye, before they move on entirely. He does not usually meet people more than once - but with Emery, he is able to make a connection, and he finds himself drawn to her. 

As Emery's life progresses, and she goes through ups and downs, she finds that a part of her is longing for those moments when her heart will stop - so that she can see Nick again. 

This is the story of two fated lovers who long for each other, but are destined never to share more than a few fleeting moments - because if they were to be together, it would mean the end of Emery's life. 

Review

I love it when a book or story takes you on more of a ride than you were expecting. It has all the ingredients of memorable romance, but it is far more than that. The balancing of the relationship threads around Emery's travel between life, and not quite in the land of the dead, is subtle and yet incredibly nuanced.

The threads create a web of connections with Emery sitting in the middle, and her actions and relationship with life itself create ripples of movement that impact everyone on said web. Her family is divided in their reactions to her condition, which means cracks begin to form. The need to protect and keep her safe from harm equals constant monitoring and restrictions.

Emery has a defiant reaction to her condition, which at first isn't connected to wanting to see the man on the other side. Eventually the defiance becomes self-destructive and becomes intertwined with the desire to see Nick again. Somewhere along the line the dance with death becomes an almost deliberate act, although I am sure Emery would disagree - she'd be deceiving herself of course. The willingness to take that risk is indicative of how she treats those around her and how she disregards the impact her risky behaviour has on those around her.

I really enjoyed the concept and would love to see this developed into a screen version - it has all the makings of the kind of idea that captures hearts indefinitely.

Buy Meet Me When My Heart Stops at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Corvus | pub date 21 March 2024 - Hardback £14.99. Also available in e-book. Buy at Amazon com.

Tuesday 26 March 2024

#Blogtour Seven Summers by Paige Toon

It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour Seven Summers by Paige Toon. - Two epic love stories. One impossible choice. 

About the Author

Paige Toon is the Sunday Times bestselling author of eighteen books that have sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide.

Paige writes sweeping, emotional love stories - filled with characters you'll never forget and incredible settings - that take you on a unique journey. She tells nuanced stories with big, thought-provoking themes at their heart which leave you uplifted and believing in the power of love. She writes her novel from a converted camper van in the garden of her Cambridgeshire home.

You will laugh, cry and feel like you've become part of a new family. Get ready to feel it all with Paige Toon! Follow @PaigeToonAuthor on X,

About the book

Six summers ago - Liv and Finn meet working in a bar on the rugged Cornish coastline, their futures full of promise. When a night of passion ends in devastating tragedy they are bound together inextricably. But Finn's life is in LA with his band, and Liv's is in Cornwall with her family - so they make a promise. Finn will return every year, and if they are single they will spend the summer together.

This summer - Liv crosses paths with Tom - a mysterious new arrival in her hometown. As the wildflowers and heather come into bloom, they find themselves falling for one another. For the first time Liv can imagine a world where her heart isn't broken every year.


Review

Such perfect pulling of the heartstrings, a tug here or a sharp pull - it's a constant whirlwind of place, time and people. At the very core lies the conundrum of one heart wants and loves two, the question is whether it can. Can Liv make a choice, is there even a right choice?

Snuggled deftly underneath is subtle smorgasbord of what family means and how the constellation can differ from the status quo. Equally how each relationship we water and feed can sustain us when the going gets tough. Liv's story is one connected with beauty, with the scenery and deeply embedded in the lives of the local community.

A part of her wishes Finn would accept that he is part of that, perhaps she underestimates the trauma he carries around with him. In a way their connection has a superficial element to it, despite the way they connect on a physical level. With Tom she explores the more spiritual level, especially the way her art is part of her soul and expression. It's what the two of them share. How can she choose between the man who has held her heart in a grip for over half a decade or the man who understands what she is made of.

It's a beautiful story, one which has the flow of a slow river, but the temperament of an ocean. The tide is the coming and going of the love Finn and Liv carry for each other, and yet when the waters calm the space between them makes the vulnerabilities more obvious. I would definitely recommend this, especially to readers who love to have their hearts teased.

Buy Seven Summers at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Century PRH UK, pub date 28th March | Paperback Original |  £8.99. Buy at Amazon com.

#Blogtour The Doctor of Hiroshima by Dr. Michihiko Hachiya

It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour The Doctor of Hiroshima by Dr. Michihiko Hachiya.


About the Author

Dr. Michihiko Hachiya was Director of the Hiroshima Communications Hospital when the world's first atomic bomb was dropped on the city. After the bomb, he continued as Director there for several years before taking on a teaching role at Okayama University Medical School. He retired in Okayama and passed away in the 1980s.

About the book

With what this poor woman had been through the sight of her crying tore at my heartstrings. What if something should happen to her; who would care for her little baby? To conceal the fear and terror in my heart I left her, trying to put up a cheerful front. But no one could conceal from her the ominous import of the dark spots that had appeared on her chest.

The Doctor of Hiroshima is the extraordinary true story of Dr Michihiko Hachiya, whose hospital was less than a mile from the centre of the atomic bomb that hit on that warm August day. Somehow, in immense shock and pain and extremely weak, the doctor and his wife manage to drag themselves to the hospital, where their horrific wounds are treated, and they slowly begin to recover. Tentatively, the doctor starts to reckon with the utter devastation of the bomb, and to investigate the strange symptoms afflicting his patients.

Told simply and poignantly through Dr Hachiya's daily diary entries, The Doctor of Hiroshima is the inspiring story of how a doctor and his patients fought to survive and rebuild their lives in the face of unimaginable loss.

Review

This translated diary of Dr Hachiya is a testament to why historical events must be underpinned by eyewitness accounts, they serve as testimony to events and tragedies that are otherwise skewed by the narration or third parties or people who write history - the victors. Ethically there are no winners in this scenario. 

The victors argue that the Japanese were so persistent, driven and strategic that this intervention was a necessity. Was it, or was it merely a power play that also gave a realistic measurement of true impact, devastation and potential? Guinea pigs, real data, the possibility of knowing how and when to use, and perhaps most importantly to ensure the world is aware of their cutthroat attitude and willingness to destroy humanity without any hesitation at all.

I'm not sure how anyone could read this and not have an ounce of compassion towards the victims. Were the Japanese guilty of heinous crimes, yes. Does that warrant the deaths of innocents, the impact of such a weapon leaving its mark on people for many decades - I think not.

Having such a remarkable in the moment transcript of the death toll, the injuries and being able to experience first-hand the importance of putting science above emotions in order to study the physical effects of radiation and exposure.

It's a book that delivers the truth on the ground, the shock and lack of comprehension at being at the core of such an atrocity, whilst simultaneously learning bit by bit what the true extent of the damage to persons, place and spirit would be and was.

Buy The Doctor of Hiroshima at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Monoray, pub date 29 Feb. 2024. Buy at Amazon com.

Monday 18 March 2024

#Blogtour In the Lives of Puppets by T.J. Klune

It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour In the Lives of Puppets by T.J. Klune.

'Inspired by Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio, In the Lives of Puppets is a masterful standalone fantasy adventure from the author who brought you The House in the Cerulean Sea and Under the Whispering Door.'

About the Author

TJ Klune is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling, Lambda Literary Award winning author of Under the Whispering Door, The House in the Cerulean Sea, The Extraordinaries, Wolfsong and more. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important now more than ever – to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories. Follow @tjklunebooks on Instagram

About the book

In a small home, built into the branches of a tree, live a human named Victor and three robots. These are a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, a small vacuum desperate for love and attention, and a fatherly inventor-android named Giovanni Lawson. Together they’re a family, hidden and safe.

Then Vic salvages an unfamiliar android labelled ‘HAP’. He learns that Hap and Gio share a dark past, where they hunted humans. And Hap unwittingly gives away Gio’s location. Before they know it, robots from Gio’s former life arrive – to capture and return the android to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams.

The rest of the unconventional family must travel across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommissioning. Or worse, reprogramming. Along the way, Vic must decide if he can handle his feelings for Hap – even if they come with strings attached.

Review

Without downplaying the aspects of the great classic Pinocchio or rather the retelling under the umbrella of a dystopian lens, I do think the concept is much more and pulls from a variety of ethical, futuristic and emotionally charged ideas. If I'm being entirely honest I think the umbrella of the aforementioned classic doesn't do this tentacled exploration of humanity, love, friendship, parenthood and the cold hard truth of the cost of technological advancement, true justice.

Nurse Ratched, an interesting one to say the least. Developed with what can only be described as the traits of a bloodthirsty serial killer with the odd tendency to care and nurse. Favourite occupation: trying to harm, dismember and/or torture Rambo. Rambo is the complete opposite, a people-pleasing vacuum droid who reacts with fear and compassion. The two of them are complete opposite sides of the spectrum. In fact when you take all five, they appear to reflect the variety of human characteristics, whilst some do so in combination with their actual lack of true human response.

Circling round the beginning and the end one could ask the question of chicken and egg, the development, invention and programming just makes them variation of the same core, right? In the midst of it all the tender strands of a blossoming love become entangled in the truth about where HAP came from and who they are, the question is whether there is a way forward beyond the Frankensteinesque past of Gio.

It's a riveting nuanced piece of work, which plays with the idea of coming-of-age within the boundaries of a non-human world. The discovery of self, which includes a tempered version of intimacy. The overriding theme is one of destruction, and the solitude of the remains of society.

Buy In The Lives of Puppets at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Tor; pub date 14 Mar. 2024. Buy at Amazon com.